It’s the most important piece to the College Football Playoff puzzle. How good is your conference? It is a major determination in the perception of a team’s strength of schedule. If your conference plays well in the non-conference slate, you will likely be rewarded. However, if the conference stumbles in the non-conference slate, your CFB Playoff chances could be doomed even if you go 12-0. Just one small blemish could eliminate you in week one and you don’t even realize it. Thus, we rank the conferences. Who is the best conference? Who is the worst conference? The rankings are below.
1. Big Ten Conference (17-3, 5-0 vs. FCS)
The Big Ten is far and away the best conference right now. The Ohio State loss to Oregon certainly hurts, but this conference is 2-0 against the Big 12. It’s bottom feeders have dispatched the FCS teams it has faced. There could be a case made against Illinois and Nebraska, but Nebraska had no problems with the FCS team they faced. Place Nebraska up against Vanderbilt and the Cornhuskers win easily. I have no choice but to place Illinois above Vanderbilt because they beat Nebraska. Two of the conference’s three losses are from Illinois. Those two losses aren’t against FCS teams. Give this conference kudos on scheduling conference games week 1 if you want. I have zero argument against this conference. They have the best results so far. It does get tougher in Week 3 though. Purdue at Notre Dame. Auburn at Penn State. Northwestern at Duke. Nebraska at Oklahoma. Cincinnati at Indiana. It’s a big week, but the Big Ten is the best conference thus far. The Big Ten is 5-2 vs. FBS schools.
2. Big 12 Conference (16-4, 9-0 vs. FCS)
Kansas defeated its FCS opponent. Kansas is better than Vanderbilt. The Big 12 Conference is 2-0 against Pac-12 opponents. Our owner Pete Mundo described it as a “brutal week” for the Big 12. It’s really not as bad as it seems. The conference went 2-3 against he FBS and didn’t lose to any FCS teams. The Big 12 is 7-4 against FBS schools. Two of those losses are at the hands of the Big Ten. One of them is a road loss to an SEC school. The other loss came on the road to a ranked team. Go ahead SEC fans. Tell us about how bad Kansas is. The bottom-line is Kansas defeated its FCS opponent. Vanderbilt lost to its FCS opponent by 20 points. Kansas lost to a ranked team. Vanderbilt defeated a school that was humiliated by 19 points at the hands of South Dakota State. You want to talk apples-to-apples? There you go. At this juncture in the season, the Big 12 Conference is better than the SEC. Don’t like it? Stop beating up on the ACC schools and schedule the conferences above you.
3. Southeastern Conference (23-4, 6-1 vs. FCS)
So, the SEC is a good conference. Still, Vanderbilt lost to East Tennessee State. There were many quality victories for the conference this week. Arkansas pulverized Texas. Mississippi State dispatched North Carolina State. Texas A&M won on the road against Colorado. Still, Vanderbilt barely defeated a Colorado State team that was destroyed by South Dakota State. If this conference would kick Vanderbilt out, it’d be the best conference top-to-bottom hands down. Vanderbilt drags this conference down. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Vanderbilt is an FCS team and should be treated as such. We are also finding out that the SEC doesn’t play the best teams from other conferences. Texas is bad this year. We can’t blame Arkansas for their luck of the draw, but this is a horrible Texas team. Let’s not forget, Pitt looks really good right now because they won at Tennessee. The 23-4 record is fabulous, but there are definitely discrepancies. The SEC is 0-0 against the Big Ten this season. Every other conference has played the best conference in college football so far.
4. Sun Belt Conference (10-9, 5-0 vs. FCS)
The Texas Longhorns didn’t exactly stomp the Ragin’ Cajuns in Week 1. Louisiana-Lafayette squeaked by FCS Nicholls State this week. Meanwhile, Coastal Carolina took care of business by securing a home victory against Kansas. South Alabama and Texas State helped the cause by picking up a pair of road victories. Appalachian State had the lead at halftime playing on the road against Miami (FL). That would have been massive. What would really help the Sun Belt is if they could convince Liberty to join their conference. The Independent picked up a road victory over Troy this week. Liberty’s other sports moved from the Big South to the Atlantic Sun in 2018. If the Sun Belt doesn’t pick Liberty up, it is likely the American Athletic Conference will. This is why the conference is 10-9 instead of 10-8.
5. Conference USA (17-12, 12-0 vs. FCS)
Say what you want about Conference USA. They’ve been able to do something the SEC can’t even say. 12 games against FCS opponents, 12 victories. It’s also picked up some valuable wins along the way. Charlotte defeated Duke and Marshall won at Navy in week 1. The expectations are the lowest for this conference. A lot of teams were blown out by superior opponents. Overall, the conference has exceeded expectations. This, even when it’s expected for the conference to get picked apart again during realignment. Oh, and UAB easily dispatched Jacksonville State. That’s something Florida State can’t say. The only reason Conference USA moves down this week is because of its 1-2 record against the Sun Belt. If you want to become a Power Five school, join Conference USA. Former members include: Cincinnati, Houston, Louisville, TCU, UCF, and South Florida. Some may forget that South Florida actually played in the Big East for seven seasons. Historically, this conference is the launching pad.
6. Atlantic Coast Conference (17-9, 6-1 vs. FCS)
Apparently, Notre Dame isn’t a good team. Florida State dropped a game to FCS Jacksonville State. The entire State of Alabama could beat Florida State right now. Perhaps, the Seminoles should consider scheduling NAIA team Faulkner for its opener next season. The ACC did pick up some quality wins this week. Pitt, surprisingly favored, went to Knoxville and defeated Tennessee. This provided the ACC its lone victory in a currently 1-4 record against the SEC. Virginia also dispatched Illinois easily, which continues to make Nebraska look bad. It would be nice to see a pillow fight between the ACC and Pac-12 for us to know who the worst Power Five conference is, but our wishes will not be granted until bowl season.
7. Mountain West Conference (17-9, 8-2 vs. FCS)
If a team is bad in the Mountain West, they are horrible. On the other hand, the Pac-12 is essentially giving the Mountain West Conference valuable victories. San Diego State secured another win the conference over its Power Five rival by walking into Tucson, mud stomping the Wildcats and taking home a convincing 38-13 victory. The Mountain West is now 3-5 in road games (all of them are road games) against Pac-12 teams, but Fresno State lost at Oregon by only a touchdown in Week 1. The Ducks never trailed during a trip to The Horseshoe against Ohio State, so props to the Bulldogs there. Other notable victories include Air Force’s road win against Navy, which prompted Navy to fire their offensive coordinator. Another notable victory is Wyoming spoiling Northern Illinois’ home opener a week after the Huskies spoiled Georgia Tech’s opener. This conference has some stinkers, but it also has some feisty teams too.
8. Pac 12 (11-12, 4-1 vs. FCS)
The Pac-12 can pretend it doesn’t need to expand all it wants to, but the results prove the Big 12 Conference is far superior. BYU is 2-0 against the Pac-12 this season. Kansas State nearly shut out Stanford. Stanford scored a road victory over USC, cannibalizing Clay Helton with a pink slip. TCU defeated Cal, making the Golden Bears 0-2. The Pac-12 North is already over. This is Oregon’s division to lose. If the Pac-12 wants to be in the College Football Playoff, it must have a rematch of Oregon vs. UCLA. Even that might not be enough. I was going to keep this conference above the Mountain West, until I noticed all eight games were at Pac-12 stadiums. That means the Pac-12 barely has a winning record at home against the Mountain West.
9. American Athletic Conference (11-11, 5-1 vs. FCS)
The AAC played much better in week two, but still didn’t prove much results wise. Five of the conference’s victories are against FCS schools. Let’s remember, Tulsa lost to an FCS school in week one. Teams who are Big 12 bound are 5-1, so that’s half of your conference’s victories right there. Navy has only scored 10 points this season and Ken Niumatalolo lost two of his staff members this week due to higher ups firing them. 1) The Pentagon fired Offensive assistant Billy Ray Stuttzman was fired because he lost his case for a religious exemption to avoid COVID-19 vaccination. 2) Athletic Director Chet Gladchuk Jr. fired longtime Offensive Coordinator Ivin Jasper for the poor start to the season. However, Niumatalolo was able to convince Gladchuk to rehire Jasper. Still, what a dumpster fire. To make matters worse, they lost to rival Air Force, a member of the Mountain West Conference.
10. MAC (8-16, 7-1 vs. FCS)
This was a horrible week for the MAC. The big note here is Northern Illinois dropping its home opener to Wyoming. The Huskies big victory at Georgia Tech is now negated. Three MAC teams lost at home to Group of Five conference foes. Additionally, Ohio lost to FCS team Duquesne. Toledo nearly spoiled Notre Dame’s home opener, but the Rockets couldn’t hold on for the victory. Top-to-bottom, this is definitely the worst conference in America right now.